AT ANY time of the day, Hill Road in Bandra is bustling with shoppers hopping from one shop to another. Just a stone’s throw away, behind St Andrew’s Church, however lies a silent, sleepy village, Chimbai. Quaint houses line the street on either side with fisherwomen squatting before them calling out to passersby to buy their fresh stock.
Some narrow bylanes between the houses lead to the small Chimbai beach. But it is not the most pleasing sight that lies ahead. Plastic bags, old bottles, leftover food, chips packets lie strewn all over the beach.
“The garbage is not just an eyesore, but it also ruins the marine life. The fish have reduced due to the plastic. BMC staff occasionally come and collect the garbage but they do not pick it up and it lies around for days leaving the wind to strew them around again. It is only when some students took up the initiative did BMC take serious action,” says Vaishali Bhagat, a fisherwoman.
Some weeks ago, students of St Andrew’s College came together as part of a college project to rid the area of its garbage.
After their repeated pleas to the BMC ward office did not yield any results, one of the students wrote to a daily and saw instant relief.
“After that the BMC began cleaning the beach regularly for at least a week. The frequency has been reducing again. It is not just the sea that brings in the garbage on the beach. The BMC doesn’t collect waste from all the houses and those households eventually end up throwing the waste on the beach,” says Brian Fernandes, the student who wrote to the newspaper. “During our survey, it emerged that earlier dustbins were provided here, but these would be stolen. Our repeated demands to BMC for dustbins have fallen on deaf ears,” says Heena, a resident of the area and participant of the cleanliness initiative.
The waste strewn on the beach has stolen Chimbai beach’s natural beauty. Old residents of the area remember it as a beautiful stretch on the coastline.
“We used to play there as children. There was sand, just like Juhu beach. The sand is nowhere to be seen, it is only plastic all over,” says Barbara Dharmai (64) who has lived in Chimbai all her life.
Over the years, many have sold their houses to developers who eventually built multi-storey buildings in the area. This has irked other residents. “When we want to build additional floors on our houses, the BMC doesn’t permit us saying it is a green zone. Then how do these big builders manage to get the permits? We have nobody to represent us or to hear our problems,” adds Vaishali.